STEVE THOMAS: Hi, this is Circulating Ideas, the librarian interview podcast hosted by me, Steve Thomas. My guest today is David Lankes. David is a professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, and author of The Atlas Of New Librarianship.
My desk is very small here so I have The Atlas out, but I’ve got it behind me so I’ve got to move it around a little bit. [laughs] It’s a very good book, but it’s a very large book.
DAVID LANKES: This is true, absolutely.
The core of the book, I think, is boiled down to your mission that you have in here, that the mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in our communities, and I was wondering, do you think that’s always been the mission of libraries? Or is that something that you’re trying to say that we should be doing now as part of new librarianship?
I think that it’s a very old mission. I think that while not those words, or those specifics, or even the intonation, I think if you showed that to people 100, 200 years ago who identified themselves as librarians they would say “Yep, that makes sense to me.” It very much stands in line with Ranganathan’s Five Laws, you know he talked a little bit about books and collections, but he was really talking about use and being a growing entity. I think it would fit with Dewey’s idea of the public library being a co-educational institution with public schools. So, I think that actually it’s a mission that may have some new phrasing and new emphasis, and certainly new interpretation, but I think the core of that’s a pretty old concept.
Right, and what do you think it is, because you talk in the book about a lot of how libraries have been around for a long time, they’ve kind of gone through all these changes. What do you think it is about libraries or librarians that’s kept us relevant through all these other changes in society?
Well I think, there’s a couple of things. One, I think there’s just the idea that information, and what I would call knowledge, the ability to figure out and solve problems is a pretty perennial issue. The idea that you can collect together a lot of resources, that you can bring together a lot of sources and information together, that’s been a big part of it, and once again I don’t know if we even called ourselves librarians, say 400 years ago, but this concept of having material and a conversation, and having a place to have that conversation in a safe environment is a durable concept. I think that the larger concept of more information is better, has been durable throughout that, and while our tools have changed on doing it, and our tools have evolved, this concept of still bringing people together, bringing the best ideas together, bringing this sort of marketplace of ideas is a durable concept.
That’s what I found interesting that you’ve, a lot of from what I’ve read, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot more about, I’m don’t know if resistance is the right word, but the resistance to what, the thing that you were saying about the new librarianship, is that people think you’re rejecting books, but I like the idea that you see them as tools, and not necessarily, we’re not just about books, we’re about ideas, and ideas aren’t found in books very often, but they’re not necessarily essential to the profession long term.
Yeah, I mean if Rangnathan had lived a couple thousand years before he would have talked about scrolls are for use, and every person their scroll etc. Actually I, the metaphor that’s been sticking in my head, Corrine Hill, who is the director down at Dallas Public Library had this wonderful phrase. They’re busy going in and redoing some of their branches, and she said “You know as we’re redoing the branches we’re putting the collaboration in the middle, and the books around the outside like art.” And the idea is not to say in a dismissive way that they’re, you know, decorative, and they’re there just to look pretty, but the idea is that if you know about art, art’s there to inspire, art’s there to provoke, art’s there to educate in many ways, and so the notion that you’ve collaboration going on, and then when you need some additional provocation, when you need some additional idea, when you need some additional voices at the table, there are those tools, books, CDs, web pages whatever they are to go and really enrich that conversation. So, no it’s not anti-book at all, I’m glad you picked up on that. It’s very much the notion that we can’t be, as Eli Niber called it, “format fetishists.” We can’t say that we’re the book people, because if we’re the book people what were we before books? What were we in the manuscript era? And what will we be when we give up the metaphor of e-book, and really start talking apps, and then talking whatever is after that? I think there’s still very much a role for librarians in that world, I think there’s very much a role right now for librarians that have no books or collections, and there are libraries in New York City that are materials libraries. Architects and people in construction and design go in and they look at what Formica is versus soapstone versus granite etc. Their collection is a collection of materials, literally building materials, and yet they’re still librarians. They’re still thinking about how to organize, how to work with these individuals to meet their goals and needs and so what tools, those tools are important. I’m trying to get librarians to realize that they’re the ones that make the tools useful, not the other way around.
Right, I almost imagine that cavemen were probably showing off their cave drawing libraries back in the olden times, and classifying them however they want to do that.
[laughs] Yes, could be, could be.
And part of what you were saying, one of the things you’ve been talking about recently is, well two things sort of to do with identity. The number one of what do we call people who use libraries, and then sort of what do we call ourselves. You said member is the term that you prefer for people who use the library?
Members comes from Joan Frye Williams who came up with that when she was doing part of a planning, and she actually went on the floor and asked people what should we call you. But, it’s actually been, other surveys have been done and member shows up pretty highly in this notion of what do we call you people who come in the libraries. And, I like it because it’s the sense of co-ownership, that they are not just a part of, but a real part of an ownership and shaping that library. I think that’s very important. Libraries aren’t going to get far unless they’re seen as a vital part of the community, not something separate from. So, I think that’s important. I hate patron because, you know, we don’t do oil painting, consumer, I don’t think we’re preparing consumers, I think we’re preparing our customers, we’re preparing people to have a much more intimate relationship with the library. They’re both getting something out of it, and they’re giving something back. So a lot of this notion around user, we use user a lot, that came out of the information science literature, and it’s been pretty widely adopted, and it used to mean really looking at someone who is part of the system, and who we need to build systems for, but it’s increasingly become used as this sort of the customer is always right idea. And I don’t think the customer is always right, I think also we’re not preparing our communities, be they academic libraries, school libraries, public libraries, any library. We’re not preparing our members, the community itself, to simply sit back and their only interaction with society, the organization, the institution is some sort of transaction around money. We don’t buy culture, we help shape culture. We don’t buy society, we’re part of society, we don’t, sort of, lease out our citizenship, we have a responsibility to citizens, and so I think it’s up to libraries to take on this much more complex notion of an interplay with the community where the community is building the library, adding to it, thinking about it, shaping it, being part of its destiny, and the librarian is there moderating, and facilitating, and getting their say on their values together. So, for me the big push around members is really one, to make their importance more than someone who simply comes in and consumes, but someone who has a voice. And two, to say that libraries I think have a larger role in society, and that is that we’re not producing a consumer culture that’s run by the big, by commerce, we’re creating this society where we all get a voice, we’re all shaping it, and we’re all a part of it. Society’s not something that exists, society’s something that’s created every day by everyone. So, that’s where I go with members.
Right, and I think that’s important, especially in tough economic times now, to get people on board with us, so I mean if it’s just that’s the library that I use that’s one thing, but if it’s your library, you feel like it’s yours, then that will make you as a tax payer maybe a little more invested in the idea and want to keep supporting it.
Right, and it also shapes our services There are a lot of people that when they look at the down economy and studies showing over 60% of librarians helped people with job-related searches last year, and I’m surprised it’s that low, but the idea that when someone comes in and they’ve lost their job, is your job to hand them off to some place like Monster.com Or hand them off to someone else? Or is your job to really help them figure out what’s next.
In Illinois, there’s a group of librarians who got together from all different kinds of libraries, and they realized that when someone lost their job that’s more, there’s a more of a discussion than simply where’s the next job to fill that slot. That some people want to go back to school, some people want to start a new job, some people want to start a new company, some people maybe they’re going to make a very different lifestyle choice: where they live what they do, stay at home with the kids etc. So they put together materials and connections with the community’s social service agencies, local colleges and universities, and created this idea of a transform you, and they’re starting campuses on public libraries around Illinois. And to me that’s the difference between user or consumer, here you’ve lost your job, you’ve asked me a question about losing your job, here’s a piece of material, and member which is “Oh, you’re part of my community, and you’re hurting, let me figure out what we can do, let me give you respect, let me open up possibilities, let me work with you in a much more sophisticated way frankly.”
And also on the question of identity, you’ve also been writing and talking recently about what we call ourselves, what the librarian is the right term for what we do, who we are in these times.
The word library is very important as a lot of librarians is very important, has a lot of power, and helps us identify ourselves to ourselves, and helps us identify to our communities in certain circumstances, academic settings and formal institutional settings. But when we leave those formal institutions, when we leave our buildings, we leave the public library, does that title serve us well or does it hold us back? And, you know, it’s something where I think the identity of librarianship is important to us, we can take the word back but there’s also part of me going “I want these skills, these values, these people in corporations and government and places that they would never get to because people would automatically dismiss them by the word librarian. And so that’s really the twirling in my head which is maybe it’s more important that we call ourselves librarians than what the world calls us. And so it isn’t like, it isn’t like a retreat to say we must all change our names tomorrow, it’s more an attitude and a positioning statement that goes, you know, if the whole thing around The Atlas, the whole thing around the New Librarianship is to shape yourself around the community, to use their language, to use their words to help them solve their problems.
So, do you have any advice on how to convince those people, the tax payers, the stakeholders, the library boards, the academic administrations, how we convince them of the value of what we’re doing as part of, if we’re embracing this new librarianship, how we get them to understand what it is that we’re wanting to do, and why we should be supported through their tax dollars, or academic budgets etc.
I think that the short answer, and it may seem over simplistic but we can’t under, can’t oversell it, and that is we need to talk to them. [laughs] You know, it’s one thing when, you know, we say all these people have these perceptions, and how much time have we spent sitting down with them, not talking about ourselves, but talking about them and their needs and then fulfilling it.
When you, I have an example, an academic librarian who every day would, you know, take his, every year would take his budget and would, he was in an academic library setting, he would go to the faculty and say “Alright, this is how much money I’ve got for journals, this is how much we’re spending to support your library.” And then the year that suddenly they were going to cut the budget he would go back to that faculty, once again every year so they knew he was coming, and he would say “Alright, this is what we can afford, this is what we can’t afford, this is, we can get it from here and here and here, or we’re going to have to cut these journal titles, are you okay with that?” It’s a very different discussion then, the library doesn’t have what I need because bringing people into the process and they see that direct connection with what they do. I’m always amazed, my sons when they were elementary school had a library grade. When they came home they were graded on how their library interactions were. I tell you, it brought attention a lot more than people who never saw that. Now, you know, as my eldest is going to middle school we don’t have a library grade any more, it’s sort of out of sight, out of mind. This idea that we’re having constant interaction, that we’re showing and demonstrating our value, and we’re talking with them and saying how do you feel about? How do you feel about that? How do you feel about that?
I know you’ve told this story many times, but I hope you don’t mind telling it one more time. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s the story that you first heard of, or first came to your attention when you were reading “The Great Influenza.”
Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. There’s this wonderful sense that librarians are poor us, no-one loves us etc. And the analogy I give is if you go back, say a little over a hundred years ago, let’s see, okay, yeah one hundred and fifty years ago to right after the end of the Civil War, there was a profession that many people assumed that was vital and important, and for a long time had been well respected, but was now increasingly being seen as being replaced by technology, inefficient, and not helpful, and do we even need them at all. Except instead of librarians it was doctors. And after the Civil War, doctors were sitting there trying to do what they’d always done, most of them illiterate, quite literally, and at the time in Europe they were developing and discovering germ theory, and the idea that what causes disease, because up until that point it was your humors, and it was here take this snake oil and such. And as people began to understand that there was a science behind disease, a science behind medicine, and they were looking at their doctors, and their doctors didn’t know it, and weren’t available, or weren’t ready, or weren’t up to speed with it, they became very discontent with doctors. People would say, you know, if you want to stay healthy, don’t go to a doctor, they’ll invariably make you sicker than what you are now. We don’t need doctors because once we figure out germ theory, once we figure out how to fight these germs everyone will be their own doctor, and there’s very similar echos. And so, and what the problem was at that time with germ theory was that germ theory told you what caused the problem, but not how to solve the problem. So there was a great anticipation that some day we’ll be able to fix this, and the people we’re trying to fix it now aren’t ready.
But, no-one could fix it, so there was a general feeling of dissatisfaction, of anxiety, and so they had to reshape and rethink and reconfigure what they did. And so doctors went through a massive retooling of the profession. They totally changed how they educated people, it became much more of a science, it became much more bench science, they had to know chemistry for the first time. They had to become engaged, they had to learn whole new practices, they suddenly were in doing evidence, in other words it wasn’t enough to be mentored, you had to go in and practice with evidence and see how it was working. And now, of course, we think of doctors as this essential field, but it was because of a conscious transformation the field. They both, they sell the same mission which was to make people healthy, but how they did that radically changed. The other thing to take out of the medical analogy, the fact that doctors have high respect and figured out the technology and got themselves in the right place to take advantage of it, now have high esteem within society is that even though the way they did that is they turned to technology, they utilized technology, they became very proficient designing and implementing it. They kept the core of their identity and their service as a human being. So when you think about getting better, you think about the doctor that helped you get better, not the MRI machine that helped you get better. You think about the nurses, you think about doctors and nurse practitioners and healthcare workers, you think about people. And so as librarians look forward and think about their identity, we’re in the same situation with people wondering do they need us, is everyone going to be the librarian? Will technology like Google and such replace us? And I think we also need to reaffirm our training and our preparation and our outlook, and we need to bring the science into it. But also we can do it by retaining our human aspect, retaining that it’s the librarian that has utmost importance, even in a world that has all this technology, all this new ways of dealing with information and organizing it. That human being still is going to be solving and helping the health of your knowledge life, your work in society.
Right, and as a library school professor what, what are you doing to prepare the next generation for that? Or any other people in your field, not just you specifically.
I think what you are seeing in library school, and there’s going to be a wide variety from those who are preparing people for 20 years ago, to those who are doing a good job, to those who don’t know what they’re preparing people for. So there’s going to be a variety just as there are in different libraries, different any industry. But, I think what’s working really well is. First of all introducing librarians to problem solving communication skills and technology skills. I think that’s obvious, but then going beyond the skills to attitudinal changes. Talking about getting real projects, real initiatives, real work that they’re putting out there. We have a course, for example, “Innovation In The Public Library,” and rather than teach it as here’s a case study of a library being innovative, here’s a case study, we say no, no, build a project, what project, how are you going to innovate? Putting students in a position where they must innovate, talking about whole new projects where they can build a portfolio of real change that they’ve made, and demonstrate it. So I think that getting them out of the classroom and into the world, whether that’s embedding them in a library or non-library setting.
Taking them, you know, on field trips down to Haiti where they’re reconstructing their information domain. Working with cold case justice files on civil rights prosecutions from 60 years ago where librarians are helping organize the case files and saving them from destruction so that they can enact social justice. The idea that librarians are active even the minute the first day they start library school, not waiting til the end and teaching them to be good catalogers. They’ve got to know about cataloging, but they’ve got to know why. So I think what’s working at the higher ed setting is that we’re getting to much more authentic ways of teaching them, much more embedded in settings of real problems. The problem is less what we can do in the two and half years at the beginning of their career, to what they do throughout their career. Right now continued education is go to a conference, pick the sessions that look interesting to you and that’s what it’s going to be. How does that tie into larger goals? How does that get assessed? How do we understand how that integrates in with the two years you began with? Etc And so, you know, we need a much more coherent way of continually educating and re-educating ourselves. We need to connect together on new ideas. I mean there’s some great examples in the field, the 21 Days To Social Media. A lot of the different practitioner based education is just, they’re disconnected and voluntary. So we need to really think strongly about how we educate ourselves initially, and constantly connect to our personal learning that works together, so we’re constantly learning new things.
Right, and I love the fact that, and I think it’s coincidental, but as budgets now are going down, these other ways of online learning, and social media, and webinars, and all these things that we can do much cheaper are kind of happening at the same time. So we are able to get these networks of learning together, and keep them up. Because, normally not everybody can afford to go to a conference any more, but you can still attend a webinar, you can do a virtual conference, you can do all kinds of things still and stay connected to your colleagues.
Yeah, and I don’t think it’s coincidental, I think a lot of people are sitting there thinking about, I tell our students, librarians have a lot of conferences. We have our local conferences, regional conferences, our disciplinary conferences, the national conferences, the technology conferences, I mean, good lord, we have a lot of conferences. And I think all the people in the conference business are sitting back going “Why is it worth them traveling here?”And increasingly they’re saying “Well what can we do virtually?” And so that technology is fortuitous in that it’s gotten better and it’s around. But I think there’s a real, and I wouldn’t say, a concerted effort, I would say a lot of people coming to the same conclusion which is that we should be able to do this online, and a lot better than we do it, bringing people to a place once a year. What’s going to be interesting though is that when all these experiments and everyone trying new things can get together and say, “Alright how can we work together.” And the next one is moving from a broadcast model which is to broadcast big heads online to truly facilitating conversations among members of our own profession, where we can get together and problem solve and work together. I think that’s the next evolution that we’re going to see in online education in general, but certainly within our field.
Right, I wonder how do you curate your own personal learning network of peers? I’m sure there are some certain people that you like to follow to learn things, but how do you find new people, new ideas to follow online or in person, or whatever?
That’s a great question. I’ve certainly built a network of people that I talk to, and I listen to, and Twitter to me is, I have to say I started Twitter going why. Why would anybody, I don’t get this, this is stupid. And now I’m addicted to Twitter in the sense that it really does give me the ability to dip my toe into the ongoing conversation of bright, new things. So that I can, and Buffy, or when Joyce Fluenza post really cool stuff, I can see what they’re doing, see what’s going on and have those conversations with them. A lot of it is, I do travel a lot, I get to go be one of those big heads broadcasting in person, but when I’m there I learn a lot from the people I meet there and that’s sort of how I expand it. So, building a professional network where you have a core of people that you follow, and talk with, it’s not just a matter of following. Once again it’s moving from the broadcast to the conversation. I think we all follow people, but how many do we go back and say “Well what did you think about this?” and make a phone call, or an email, or have a little richer conversation than what you can do in 140 characters. And then getting out and about, go and experience new environments, new settings, new challenges, and I’m literally this afternoon hopping on a plane to Rome where I’m talking to the Italian Library Association. And as they’re preparing the press and materials for it, they’re like “Well you know, the press people want something provocative, and feel free to criticize Italy.” And I’m sitting there going “I’ve been there five times on trips, I’m not going to sit there and tell them what’s wrong with them.” It’s like “Hi, I’m the ugly American from hell.” But, what I will do is when I’m over there, I’ll say well this what I’m hearing, what are you hearing, and learning, and having whole conversations, and now because of those five trips, there are people over there that I talk with, there are people that I have conversations with, and they expand my view internationally now. And so I think it’s a matter of you put a great, curating your personal learning network is a fabulous way of phrasing that, because, and it’s about the people that you interact with more than the things you read. I read my literature and I keep up with it, but what I learn on a daily basis comes 90% from interactions with human beings and 10% from anything written on the page, or a screen.
Right, and that was part of my impetus of doing this podcast, even I wanted to learn about other people, and I also wanted to introduce other people to new ideas, and new people that they’ve never heard of, and I tried to balance it up and get different kinds of people on here so people can learn about different librarians.
And that’s fabulous. And you know one of the things, and I have to really one, you’ve done a great job. You’ve had great people, and you’re a great interviewer on it, but I also have to say you’re a great example for all the people who go to a conference or a webinar and sit metaphorically in the back row listening and going “Nah, not right, don’t disagree, what does he know? what does she know?” etc.
And then they leave, and the only comment was to the ether. You know I keep saying, if you have those comments, if you have something to say you’ve got to be part of that conversation. Start a podcast, start a blog, start a Twitter feed, email the person, have, start a conversation. If you don’t agree, if you think someone’s heading in the wrong direction, or they’re missing a fact or something, there’s an obligation within our profession if we’re going to improve to engage that, not simply to acknowledge it, be grumpy about it, and walk away. I mean that grumpy, get off my yard kind of attitude never improved a profession. It’s always about people who go to the next extreme and say “I’m going to make my learning visible. I’m going to make my thoughts visible. I’m going to join the ongoing conversation, or else I’m abdicating that conversation to others, and potentially others I really don’t agree with.”
Right. And I know you’ve described yourself before as a pragmatic utopian, and I think that sort of fits in with that, that you’re seeing this good view of the profession, but you’re not being a Pollyanna about it, [laughs] you’re being more realistic about it.
Yep. Part of my job for the past couple of years, I’ve been teaching our intro courses. So I teach students who say they want to be librarians from their first experiences where they’re worried about coming back to grad school, the whole thing. And you can’t do that without getting a real love of these students, their enthusiasm, their ideas, and I see a lot of their vigor, I see a lot of their energy, and I see that the best librarians, those people I go to talk to all during the day are the ones who keep that sense throughout it. What I know will happen to all of these students, is that they will encounter situations where they will be, where that optimism will be called into question and will be challenged. And the best librarians, the best ones that have been out there five, ten, 50 years, are the ones that can keep the optimism and gain the pragmatism, and what we can do, you went back to how we can change our education system, we need a little bit more pragmatism in our education system. The optimism we’re good at, the pragmatism, exposing them to negative forces in a positive teaching environment is what we need to do, right? I bring in librarians who I think are really fantastic, and great to talk to the students. I don’t know quite how to do this in a nice, ethical, honest and friendly way, but possibly I should bring in some librarians that I don’t want ever want them to be like.
But I haven’t figured that one out yet, so anyone who is talking to my class, I’m not doing that! But, there is a sense of bringing someone in and going alright, that person who just squashed your dreams, either you’re going to, library students respect them because they have the title librarian. They’ve got the job that these students want. They forget that they might have gotten that job for things that have nothing to do with why they want the job. And so just being a librarian doesn’t automatically earn them respect. You need to really engage and figure out if you want to be like that. And things like this podcast, things like Buffy’s blog, things like having really good pragmatic utopians out there who are broadcasting out their daily victories, and their daily failures, is what pushes this field ahead much further than me going and giving an hour long talk.
Yeah, I have, I think it’s important just because there are, I think, I forget where I’ve read this about you recently, but something about when your students go out to actual libraries, sometimes they come back depressed because people actually working in the libraries are just kind of grumpy, and depressed about the field, and the future of the profession, and they sort of bring them down [laughs].
Yeah, I had one, they have to all go do interviews. I had one student come back from an interview who said “I was interviewing this woman, she’s a young adult YA librarian and she’s convinced that everyone else, that she’ll be fine, but everyone else in the building’s going to lose their job.” And you’re like, “Shut up, we don’t need you, stop that.” And so I’m, I get impatient, I get very impatient with people who are fatalists, and who don’t see, if you think the profession’s going to hell in a hand basket then you better be part of the solution, if not get out of the way. I even, the annoyed librarian who really does annoy me, who 90% of what they post I’m not thrilled with, I disagree with, at least they’re having the conversation and they’re putting stuff out there. They’re talking about potential solutions, so what I’m worried about is the really annoyed librarian who’s sitting quietly, or sitting in a meeting in a passive aggressive mode, or is telling their friends and buddies how horrible things are, but will never say that to their colleagues in order to improve it. And every profession, I know this is not a librarian thing, every profession has these folks, every profession deals with this. It’s just I want, I see it on a very visceral daily basis, I think people don’t always get the fact that they really can make an influence with one big nasty negative comment, and it’s not to say that you can’t have a big nasty negative comment, but at least have a constructive twist at the end and a solution.
Yes it’s funny you brought up the annoyed librarian because I had a talk just recently, I was like I wonder if there’s a way I can figure out how to get them as a guest on the show, just to get the idea out there.
But have to have a voice disguiser or something, I don’t know.
That’s right, do the interaction via some neutral anonymized email address and then run it through a voice processor, you know a voice synthesizer. That’s an interesting idea!
Yeah, I’m not sure if it would work, or if they would agree to do it, or whatever, but I’ll have to give it some more thought to see. [laughs] The name of the book itself “The Atlas Of New Librarianship” I thought it was interesting. You do have different definitions of the word “atlas” in the book. One is that it’s a book of maps, and one is that it’s a book of diagrams and things like that. But, I like the fact that it is both, that it’s also minutes, sort of showing us the world of librarianship, and how to make our way through it, but it’s also a book of diagrams and things like that too. [laughs]
You’re right, it’s my map of the world, and I, it’s my map and it’s obviously a privileged view because I’m a professor, and MIT Press published it and everything else, but it really is hopefully encouragement to other people to come up with their own map. Once again, agree or disagree, figure out what parts fit, don’t fit, you need to add additional information, and when I started this whole look at libraries conversation, and after the virtual reference of bringing the librarians online, having them “face-to-face” with people online, I started talking about participatory librarianship, that people needed to participate and be part of it, and actually I put out a post a at one point, “I’m going to go and talk about participatory librarianship, what should I say?” And I think it was Karen Schneider that wrote back and said “Drop the participatory part, it’s just librarianship.” You know, we tend to segment, and modify, and add things as if they’re separate, and Buffy still talks about participatory librarianship, I can’t twist her to talk about new librarianship. But, frankly it’s just librarianship, and that’s my view, what’s your view? And I was debating whether it was “The Atlas of New Librarianship” or “The New Atlas of Librarianship,” and I just figured that my job was not to try and explain all of librarianship in great detail, so that’s why I threw in the phrase new librarianship. But, it’s meant to give you my map, hopefully that map is useful, but hopefully that map is just the beginning so you can build your own either physical or metaphorical atlas. You know your sense of the typography of the domain of librarianship, where it fits in, where it doesn’t. This is my attempt, and I hope it’s useful to folks.
And I have one final question, that after I heard your key note at the Virtual ALA conference this year, and I was kind of in a room of other people from my library, and afterwards everybody talked about how inspirational your speech was. And what I’m wondering is who is inspirational to you in the profession? Or even outside the profession?
Yeah, I, sometimes I think I have the title of Cheerleader-In-Chief, and it’s something that I learned a long time ago that the more authentic you are, the better a presentation is, and so when I get a little worked up at the end it’s because I think I get, I am inspired. I’m inspired by people within the profession, I’m inspired by Buffy, I’m inspired by Joyce, I’m inspired by Nicolette, I’m inspired by a lot of librarians out there that I see doing brilliant new things. Not all that I agree with, but at least they’re out there trying, and working, and we’re having a conversation. So I mean there’s this standard sort of big heads that you listen to, and the names that you listen to. But I’m inspired by Lawrence Bedley who graduated from our program last year, now working the Fayettville Free Library about 20 minutes south of Syracuse, and she just got a grant to build a fab lab inside her library, which is where they’re going to have 3D printers, and manufacturing facilities for people, where people are going to go build it. That’s inspiring to me because it says a library is a place of learning, not all learning comes through reading, much of learning comes through doing. And so the library should be a doing place, that I find inspirational. I find inspirational people like Meg Bachus who are trying, just trying things, and out they’re working, and have cool ideas. So I find them very inspiring.
I find the librarians I meet on a daily basis, half of which I know their names, half of which I don’t, who come up and say “You know I had this problem and I struggled and I’m trying to find it.” So for me it’s that personal learning network where I’m drawing from people who are overcoming obstacles. I think I’m inspired by people like Corrine Hill of Dallas Public Library, who dealt with a massive budget cut and her conclusion to that was not “Oh we’re doomed, we can’t do it.” Her conclusion was “I can run a damn good library in the budget that you’ve given me, but it’s not going to be the library of 10 years ago.” I find that kind of work inspiring. I find the people, the librarians of the library of Alexandria during the Arab Spring immensely inspirational, when they really worked with the people to retake the library for the people. So it varies, it’s just a lot of folks, and what I look at, I’m inspired classically by people like Mike Eisenberg, or Chuck McFloor, who are, I was going to say, were, but are continuing to be mentors of mine in terms of making a difference and having an outreach. I’m inspired by a lot of different folks. Rob Taylor, and his writings on Bob Taylor, I find that very inspirational. So it’s a mixture, but it’s ongoing, it’s a matter of part of what I see my job doing is when I got from setting to setting and conference to conference is to share the good news, is not to come up with brilliant, wonderful thoughts. I get one of those every 10 years, but to share what other people are struggling about, and say “Look, I lose patience with people who tell me they can’t when I can find five examples of people who can.” And I find them all over the place. And so what I would tell folks, I tell our students, I tell you, I tell the folks who are listening, build that pool of inspiration, build that network of people that includes the “Today, was a horrible day,” but also includes “Today, was a great day.” And re-energize yourself on a daily basis with people who are outnumbering the folks who think the profession is doomed. We need to get louder about that, and more active.
Right. Thank you, David, so so much for what you do for the profession, and thank you a lot for talking to me for the show today.
Thank you, and I appreciate your patience throughout this whole process, I wish you luck!
[laughs] All right, thanks a lot.
All right, bye.